By Senator Rehman Malik
While fighting the war on terror against Zaliman, I confronted them for five years as Interior Minister and for over two decades in the FIA as Director General Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) at various positions. During that period, I had a chance of dealing with the Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) of USA in an official capacity. I had always heard the echo of ‘do more’ during my tenure as Interior Minister wherein do more was demanded by high officials of the US, including two US Presidents.
President Donald Trump has announced that the United States will be classifying the loose-knit Antifa movement as a terrorist group after blaming it for the recent violence in US cities in the reaction to the killing of George Floyd, an African-American in US police custody.
This is for the first time that unfortunately the USA has experienced home-grown terrorism and it is for the first time that the USA has been seriously jolted with this terrorist group. This group is going to infect Europe as well, if not blocked now.
I support the action of US President Donald Trump to ban the home-grown terrorist group immediately before it is too late and the history of Pakistan and Afghanistan may not be repeated in the world, starting from the US itself. In fact, Pakistan suffered because we did not take action against our home-grown terrorism in the beginning and we became a victim of international intrigue.
We faced this trouble as a result of the US-Soviet war, where our little mistake of helping the US turned out to be a blunder in the form of the creation of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
President Donald Trump may also find the reasons behind the killing of George Floyd in the hands of police, as it will be a balanced act by his government.
On May 31, 2020, President Donald Trump announced on twitter, “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organisation.” Actually, the Trump administration and some of his close aides think Antifa and some other groups they call “far-left extremists” are responsible for hijacking peaceful protests against police tortures after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
The statement of US President Donald Trump is no less than a surprise for the security experts and law enforcers across the world, particularly those who have been working closely with Americans in the war against terrorism.
Antifa stands for “anti-fascists” and is not a singular group or organisation. It is a movement of far-left activists that resist white supremacists and neo-Nazis at protests. The Antifa is actually a secretive movement in the United States of radical activists, mainly left-wing, anti-fascist political activists. The movement emerged in recent years and comprises autonomous activist groups that aim to achieve their political objectives through the use of direct action rather than through policy reforms.
Reportedly, Antifa activists use different protest tactics, including digital activism, property damage, and physical violence and harassment against those whom they identify as fascist, racist, or on the far-right. The background of this organisation goes back to Nazi time and the activists believe in violence and are basically anti-government and use the card of rights for minorities. They think it is abnormal to get rights through the formal, peaceful way. Their prime focus and their wishful agenda is to fight for a world free of fascism, racism, sexism, homo/transphobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and bigotry.
Antifa organisers believe violence is justified because they say if not, fascist groups are allowed to proliferate. Basically, they are even against white supremacy as they want the world free of discrimination and if Mr Donald Trump recalls, the same group came up when he wanted the migrants to leave the US. There has been a political tussle between the Trump administration and Antifa and it will be perhaps difficult to ban it as there is a strong lobby of Antifa worldwide and one has to see what would be the reaction of Joe Biden who has already stated that he will look into the issues of the recent protests once he comes into power.
This group is against the US democratic system too. Both the name Antifa and the logo with two flags representing anarchism and communism are derived from the German Antifa movement. The name comes from early 1930s Germany, where socialist “anti-fa” groups attempted to challenge the rise of Adolf Hitler’s Nazis. Despite their best, they could not hold Hitler and Hitler continued his way. Antifa then shifted to Poland and thereafter it spread throughout Europe.
As explained above, Antifa is not a single organisation and does not have a leader but is a secretive movement though different state groups do hold regular meetings. Antifa can also be traced to Anti-Fascist Action, a militant group founded in the 1980s in the United Kingdom whose general strategy was to deny fascists a public platform to spread their message.
President Donald Trump made its comparison with Al-Qaeda and in fact, I decided to write after Donald Trump simply compared it with Al-Qaeda and the way Al-Qaeda was banned, whereas, he knows that there is no domestic terrorism law, the President cannot put a ban on any terrorist organisation.
USA has remained involved in gaining control over other nations by hook or by crook and has attacked many other countries. It has been supporting various anti-govt groups in several countries while forgetting the fact that one day, the same form of terrorism could grow on USA’s own soil as well. They have also made it permissible for the USA’s intel to get involved in international operations and today they are facing the same.
Interestingly, there are certain common benchmarks and I think the idea of creation of a Jihadi group by USA might have been derived from this group, as later on the Jihadi, Taliban and then Al-Qaida seemed to have followed the same course of action as they have been following the common way of operations.
Al-Qaeda used religion – but far from Islam. Al-Qaeda recruits common people who have suffered in the hands of the government from within the country they are operating in. Antifa also includes the common people who have faced discrimination. Al-Qaeda exploited the Islamic forum whereas Antifa is a non-religious organisation using the communist forum and is more close to Russia. Al-Qaeda used high-level violence tactics – AntiFa uses bricks/gases etc. as ammunition.
Al-Qaeda used suicide bombing to terrorise the people of the area – Antifa also uses human shields in their protests. Al-Qaeda is against Donald Trump – Anti Fa is also against Donald Trump.
Al-Qaida could be bombed and droned – Antifa cannot be droned or bombed as it is integrated within American society and by now, they have won local politics.
Al-Qaeda does not care about the civilian property or lives – Antifa also destroys properties through violence regardless of whose property they are damaging.
Let us hope that Donald Trump acts fast and has this organisation banned before his second election.
The violation in the US will increase manifold, and the US must look into who heads this organisation remotely, as the mind does not expect it to be working without a leader.
This strengthens my doubt that there is someone who is trying to destabilise the USA.
This strengthens my doubt that there is someone who is trying to destabilise USA. I propose to Mr Donald Trump that the federal government can make amendments in their foreign act which deals with actions against foreign terrorists who commit terrorist acts against the United States or its citizens.
USA can do a simple amendment in the existing foreign terrorism act which is possible by replacing word ‘Foreign Terrorists’ with both ‘Local and foreign terrorists’ as both will subject to be proscribed and tried under this act. Another issue that Trump and his administration has to face is how to block such movement with no known leaders, no headquarters, and no clear ideology other than the opposition and I hope the CIA has their database. While President Donald Trump was making the statements against Antifa and ordering for National Guard to the big cities to control these terrorists, I was remembering our thirty years suffering of my resources-less country and history repeating and hope the American leadership is realising how difficult it is to deal with those terrorists who live within your own country and neighbours, without the tag of terrorists, and operate to destroy you. These fresh unfortunate events have shown that President Donald Trump has to understand as to how to protect America from terrorism. Keeping everything aside, I would like to pray for American brothers and sisters to remain safe from cruel terrorist acts.
My advice is to move fast against this group as we delayed our official actions against Taliban, and we are still suffering till today and I hope President Donald Trump will move fast and block it before it turns out to be a new version of Al-Qaida.
(The writer is a PPP Senator, former Interior Minister of Pakistan, and Chairman of think tank “Global Eye” and Senate Standing Committee on Interior. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @Senrehmanmalik)